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Recent Injury to Elderly Woman Places Focus on Elder Abuse

A recent case of alleged elder abuse coming out of Mitchell County, NC has again focused the public's attention on this often hidden crime. Earlier this week, Ms. Brandi Tipton (age 36) and her husband, Frank Viola, Jr. (age 36) were arrested and charged with abuse of Tipton's mother, a 66 year old disabled woman. Police allege that they found the victim malnourished, covered in feces, and with maggots living in her hair. For more on this story, visit: http://wlos.com/news/local/husband-wife-sought-in-mitchell-county-elder-abuse-case-now-both-in-custody

Elder abuse is unfortunately a common, but underreported crime in western North Carolina. Victims are often isolated and without a social network of persons who can notice and report irregularities. Perpetrators are often family members and/or care givers, who the victim may be unwilling to report for a variety of reasons, including the fear that they will be moved into a facility for care.

Elder abuse can take can take many forms, from physical abuse and neglect, to financial abuse. Elder abuse is expected to rise as baby boomers reach their senior years. The opioid epidemic has also contributed to elder abuse, as drug addicts search for income sources and can take advantage of family members by stealing their assets and social security checks.

The injuries suffered by victims can be both physical and emotional. Physical personal injuries to an elderly person can result in life-threatening situations. Financial abuse can result in injuries to an elder person's ability to pay for shelter, food, and medical care. The abuse often results in mental injuries to the victim, with feelings of betrayal and loss of trust.

It is a crime in North Carolina to abuse an elder adult either physically or financially. Additionally, North Carolina law now requires persons who suspect elder abuse to report the abuse. These reports can be made to the county's department of social services and/or local law enforcement. Further, financial institutions (banks) who spot irregularities in an elderly customer's banking habits which would indicate abuse must also report the suspicious activities.

There are organizations which to help promote awareness of elder abuse. Buncombe County hosted its first annual "Elder Abuse Awareness Day" in June, 2017 at Carrier Park in Asheville, NC with representatives from agencies across western North Carolina who provided information on spotting and stopping elder abuse. For more information about elder abuse prevention, contact Land of Sky's Council on Aging at (828) 277-8288 or visit http://www.landofsky.org/ombudsman.html

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